Christmas 2016 - Ideas for natural, handmade and inexpensive tree decorations

One of my favourite parts of Christmas is decorating the tree. We are off to get ours today (hooray!) and I've got a few new ideas up my sleeve for what I'm going to be adorning it with this year. I like to make little changes each year, mixing our old faithful decorations with some new handmade or natural ones that I make or collect in December. 

Christmas is a notoriously expensive time of year and so I always try to keep my tree decorating as cheap and cheerful as possible, making or foraging as much as I can rather than splurging on expensive baubles.  I've listed a few of my tree decoration ideas below in the hope that they might inspire you to try some of these this year!

1. Vintage keys.

I acquired a bag of second-hand keys on freecycle a couple of years ago (yes, I'm mad) and have wondered what on earth to do with them ever since. It suddenly occurred to me that they would make very pretty tree decorations, nestling among the branches. I often see second hand keys at car boot sales or in junk shops - I especially love when they come with little handwritten labels that say things like "garden shed" or "spare garage"!!

2. Painted eucalyptus leaves.

I made these last year for the tree and they have lasted well. I dipped leftover eucalyptus leaves from wreath making into white emulsion paint and let them dry, then used a gold pen (this one) to paint shapes onto them. I used a needle to make a tiny hole at the top and strung them with fine cotton thread. They twinkled beautifully on the tree last year, like little gold and white coins.

3. Wool tassels.

These are very easy and cheap to make, and give a wonderful textured, handmade feel to a tree. I made them in white and cream as I wanted something to brighten the tree, but you could make them in any colour, or make multicoloured ones.

4. Painted pinecones.

These speak for themselves really. Pine cones are the cheapest decorations - they can be gathered from any woodland walk or picked up very cheaply in garden centres. They look beautiful dipped in white paint, or painted with gold or glitter paint.

5. Dried orange slices.

Does anything say Christmas more than these? They're easy to make, they smell amazing and they make a tree look so festive and happy. I love them, make them every year (I find drying them on the radiator the best method) and use them for tree decorations, wreath prettifying and even garlands. I'm yet to do lemons and limes, but soon!

6. Clay decorations.

I learnt how to make these at a Christmas workshop this year, and immediately bought some more quick dry clay to make more. I cut out shapes with cookie cutters and also cut around some leaves with a blunt knife. I then embellished them with my trusty gold pen and I'm quite pleased with how they turned out! My favourites are definitely the leaves. Some I will use on the tree, and the others will be used to prettify presents.

7. Playing cards.

I used these vintage Hungarian cards on the tree a couple of years ago and loved the old fashioned classic feel they gave it. I picked them up in a junk shop just because I loved the illustrations but actually the colours make them perfect for Christmas. Normal playing cards would work just as well too. I didn't want to make holes in them so I pegged them with tiny pegs and then used tree ornament hangers to suspend them from the branches.

8. Feathers.

These give such a soft, organic feel to a Christmas tree. White feathers dipped in gold or glitter look incredible, and soft grey feathers are also subtly beautiful. Pheasant feathers would also look dramatic and striking. I tend to collect feathers through the year out on walks or in the park so they are completely free, but you can also buy them cheaply on ebay.

9. Polaroid photos.

It suddenly occurred to me that little photos would make lovely personal tree decorations, especially if they depicted moments through the year - decorating the tree would be a chance to remember all the special memories from the past year, before the new year arrives.

10. Paper ornaments.

I made long garlands of these to hang above our Christmas table last year, but they would equally make beautiful individual tree decorations. They are so simple to make - choose a shape (I love circles and stars), cut out loads of the same shape, then sew or glue them together down the middle and fold them out so they become 3D. Newspaper, old music and book pages look especially lovely like this, but you could equally make them with with brown paper, thick wrapping paper or old wallpaper.

A few other ideas:

  • Gingerbread - trees, people, stars, snowflakes. Cheap, pretty and rustic, plus they smell amazing (just remember to make a hole in them before baking)
  • Wool Pom poms - made infinitely easier with one of these amazing pom pom makers. These also make brilliant present decorations and they always look so happy. 
  • Cinnamon sticks - tied in little bundles with twine or raffia, these always look beautiful. 
  • Vintage cotton reels - unusual and beautiful little objects in themselves, these would make any tree look very special. 
  • Luggage tags - easy and cheap, these could be stamped to make them look even prettier. 
  • Dried hydrangea or seed heads.

Happy Christmas tree decorating! I hope you manage to find a couple of hours to bedeck your tree, along with some Christmas carols and a glass or two of something. I will try to post a few photos of our tree once decorated soon, but in the meantime, if you would like to have a peek at last year's tree, it is here and the year before is here

Mary x